"There is simply no legitimate reason for the Defense Department to maintain blanket policies that prevent people living with HIV from enlisting or that unnecessarily curtail opportunities if a person becomes HIV-positive while serving."
( Chicago, IL — December 20, 2013 ) - Late yesterday the U.S. Senate passed the National Defense Authorization Act of 2014, which includes important language directing the Secretary of Defense to issue a report on Department of Defense personnel policies regarding members of the armed services who have HIV or Hepatitis B. The U.S. House of Representatives approved the bill last week.
Specifically, the bill requires: a description of existing policies governing enlistment, deployment, discharge and discipline of service members with HIV or Hepatitis B; and an assessment as to whether these policies reflect an evidence-based medically accurate understanding of how these conditions can be contracted or transmitted. Scott Schoettes, Lambda Legal HIV Project Director, issued the following statement.
"It is high time for the Defense Department to engage in a comprehensive review and modernization of its policies with respect to people living with HIV. There is simply no legitimate reason for the Defense Department to maintain blanket policies that prevent people living with HIV from enlisting or that unnecessarily curtail opportunities if a person becomes HIV-positive while serving. It will send an important message to the rest of the country when the military - our nation's largest employer - fixes its outdated policies regarding HIV," Schoettes said.
"Furthermore, the federal government should take the lead in ending HIV criminalization. Requiring that any Defense Department disciplinary policies concerning armed services members living with HIV be evidence-based and medically accurate will help move the United States beyond the misperceptions and unwarranted fears that the HIV criminalization laws on the books in many jurisdictions across the country perpetuate.
"We look forward to a revision of Defense Department policies that will help move us beyond the stigma and discrimination surrounding this condition, achieve the benchmarks this administration has set with respect to combating HIV/AIDS, and assist the country and the world reach its goal of an AIDS-free generation."